Thursday, July 5, 2007

Good Books, Part 1

I'm working on a series of short reviews of three books that together do a good job of telling the story of what life was like for journalists and photographers in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. Certainly, they each contain colorful reminiscing and favorite "war stories," but at the heart of each book is an honest telling of what it took to get the job done and survive the odds that were largely stacked against them.

The three books I'll be reviewing are:

Page After Page: Memoirs of a War-Torn Photographer by Tim Page

Dispatches by Michael Herr
Lost Over Laos: A true Story of Tragedy, Mystery, and Friendship by Richard Pyle and Horst Faas

First up is Tim Page's autobiography, Page After Page.

Tim Page is one of the best known war photographers who made his mark in Vietnam during the latter half of the 1960's. It's been said that the character of the photographer played by Dennis Hopper in the film, Apocalypse Now, was modeled after Page. It's also been said by some that Page was out there, always "beyond the edge." He was wounded at least three times. On the last occasion he was pronounced DOA three times, but was resuscitated and survived subsequent brain surgery.

Page After Page is, as the name implies, a page turner. Tim Page was one of Sean Flynn's best friends; shared rooms with him and went out on assignment together. (Flynn later disappeared, along with fellow photographer Dana Stone, in Cambodia. It is now believed that the Kamer Rouge executed both Flynn and Stone.)

For me the most interesting part of Page's story is the chain of events that landed him in Laos and then Vietnam in the first place. Page, at age 17, left England on a typical VW van type trip around Asia. He spent a long time in India and ended up in Laos, broke and looking for work. Eventually he accepted a job as a stringerer with UPI having virtually no experience using a camera and found his way to Vietnam. Before he was 30 years old he had seen more combat than some foot soldiers and made his name as one of the most colorful war photographers ever to pick up a Nikon F.

Personally I think Page After Page is a great book, not a great piece of literature, but a great book. Page tells his story with a lot of humor and stark candor. The book has a copyright of 1988 and was published in the US by Macmillan Publishing, New York. I picked up my first US printing in the mid 1990's and have read it a couple of times. It may be out of print, but I saw it available on Amazon not too long ago. I definitely recommend getting a copy for yourself.

Other books by Tim Page:

* Tim Page's Nam (1983)

* Sri Lanka (1984)

* Ten Years After: Vietnam Today (1987)

* Derailed in Uncle Ho's Victory Garden (1995)

* Mid Term Report (1995)
* Requiem (1997)

* The Mindful Moment (2001)